No Charges for 6-Year-Old Who Shot Teacher


Abby Zwerner | Image by Abby Zwerner/Facebook

Criminal charges will not be sought against a six-year-old child who shot his teacher in January.

As The Dallas Express previously reported, the incident occurred on January 6 at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, Virginia.

The boy allegedly used his mother’s legally purchased 9mm handgun to shoot his 25-year-old teacher, Abby Zwerner, per AP News.

Although the bullet went through her hand and struck her chest, Zwerner is seen on video footage guiding children out of the first-grade classroom.

No one else was hurt, and another school employee restrained the boy until the police arrived.

Zwerner was taken to a local hospital for treatment and has since been released.

At a vigil for the teacher shortly after the incident, many of her colleagues came to show their support.

“Abby is a warrior and she demonstrates mental and physical strength every day,” Rosalie List, a 2nd-grade Richneck teacher, told AP News. “I’m so proud of her.”

As for the child, who has not been identified due to his minor status, the shooting was reportedly intentional, as Newport News police Chief Steve Drew told AP News.

In a statement released by the family’s attorney, James S. Ellenson, it was revealed that the boy has “an acute disability” that required one of his parents to attend school with him. The statement explained that neither parent was present on the day of the shooting, which they will regret “for the rest of [their] lives,” per AP News.

The gun used in the incident was said to have been secured on a tall shelf in a closet. The family’s statement explained that they had no idea how the boy had gained access to it. The gun was also equipped with a trigger lock.

Whether the child’s apparent disability played a role in the city prosecutor’s decision on March 8 not to seek criminal charges is unknown.

After being assigned the case in January, local prosecutor Howard Gwynn told NBC News that “the prospect that a 6-year-old can stand trial is problematic” due to their lack of competency to understand the legal system and the implications of being charged.

Under Virginia common law, the “infancy defense” doctrine holds that children under age 7 cannot be charged with a crime because they are too young to form criminal intent. Additionally, a judge would have to find the child competent to stand trial, meaning that the child could understand the legal proceedings and assist in his own defense.

“You have to be able to show that they understand the seriousness of it, planned it, and executed it,” Julie McConnell, a law professor at the University of Richmond, told AP News. “It would be very hard to prove that a 6-year-old could understand that what he did could have permanent consequences.”

The prosecutor’s office has not decided if any adults will be held criminally accountable, according to Gwynn.

As The Dallas Express previously reported, Richneck Elementary School has approximately 550 students from kindergarten to fifth grade. While the premises had been outfitted with metal detectors, they were used at random.

Last month in Texas, the father of a kindergartener, Tate Tabor, was arrested on a prohibited weapon charge when his child allegedly brought a box of fireworks into school as part of a Valentine’s Day project, as reported by The Dallas Express. School officials launched evacuation protocols upon spotting the package and notified the authorities. No one was hurt in the incident.

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